Thorns and thistles are no joke! Armored plants such as these can be a painful surprise when you stumble into their midst, especially if you are wearing shorts or are barefoot. In the curse spoken by God in Genesis 3 because of their sin, thorns and thistles are specifically mentioned.

Genesis 3:18 (NKJV)

“Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field.”

Thus, thorns and thistles became symbols of what God had placed a curse on.

In the Middle East, thorns and thistles invade land that is being wasted or neglected. At the edge of grain fields, a painful border of thistles guard the harvest. Roadsides are often thickets of thistles. In fact, thistles and other armed plants are so common in that part of the world that if you sent a first-time visitor on a hike through fields, he/she would quickly get the point.

Thorns are associated with broken ground that is not used. Proverbs 24:30-31 illustrates it this way:

“I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding;

And there it was, all overgrown with thorns; its surface was covered with nettles; its stone wall was broken down.”

They are also associated with judgment from God in the form of painful consequences of His people’s disobedience.

Joshua 23:13

“know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations from before you. But they shall be snares and traps to you, and scourges on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land which the Lord your God has given you.”

So what we have represented by thorns are the judgment due to original sin and fallen-ness, the judgment due to neglect of stewardship, and the judgment due to disobedience in the form of incomplete obedience. The Writer of the letter to the Hebrews sums it up for us in chapter 6 verse 8:

“but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.”

So fast forward to Jesus Christ as He is enduring his Passion and crucifixion. Matthew records the following in his Gospel account:

“When they had [a]twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’”

In the area around Jerusalem, any of the woody plants with thorns would not have been fit for weaving into a crown. What was most likely used was a green annual thorn plant. For the Roman soldiers, this would have resembled a laurel or ivy victory wreath worn in a triumphal procession. Ironically, that is exactly what Jesus was doing! Through His suffering and death, Jesus bore the curse for use and triumphed over sin and death in our place! How appropriate that in doing so He would wear a crown of the thorns that symbolized both of those spiritual realities!